I never imagined I would be writing this kind of an article at this point of time while India was preparing for it. No one did. Who would have fancied the chances of a team ranked 164 in a group with Iraq, UAE, Oman and Lebanon!
Add to that, we had a new coach who got only 16 days (!) to work with the team. Plus we were trying a new modern formation that the boys had no clue about.
And what followed? The so called mighty Iraq gasped for breath, UAE somehow saving grace, Lebanon thrashed beyond recognition and Turkmenistan blown out of our way.
We have a great chance of qualification from here. And we deserve to. India U22 team faces Oman in their last round fixture. A must win game for us.
Currently 3 teams, India Oman and UAE are tied at 7 points. There are lot of calculations going into the game which I would not talk about. But the bottom-line is that we have to get full 3 points to stay in hunt.
Oman was beaten by UAE in their opening game by 0-2, struggled against Turkmenistan to win 1-0 and then were given a huge scare by Lebanon but won that game too by 3-2. But they came back well to hold Iraq 1-1.
When you compare the results, India certainly looks a better side. But Oman will be spirited on the back of a draw against Iraq. Also, Oman have a huge home advantage and the comfort of playing all the matches under floodlights and in the same venue, which must have made them lot less fatigued than other teams.
Oman so far, and you can call it the luck of the draw or whatever but, have been given a logistical joy ride per se. Firstly, they are the host nation which is always an advantage but also they are the only team in the group not to have to change playing venues once or had to play at 5pm when the heat is at it’s maximum.
Arthur Papas, India U22 Coach
Two key players from Indian camp, Narayan Das and Tirthankar Sarkar will be missing out due to double bookings. However Indian coach is not perturbed by that as the team performance has been equally good in spite of making so many changes in each of the matches.
We have shown we are not dependant on any one player and this now opens up opportunities for other players to put their hand up.
Artur Papas to IFN
The match kicks-off at 8 pm Oman Time, 9:30 pm IST in Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex.